"One Punch From the Promised Land: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks and the Myth of the Heavyweight Title" by John Florio
Boxing, professional, championship, biography
August 29, 2013
5 of 5 stars (excellent)
Boxing fans of a certain age are certainly familiar with the Spinks brothers, Leon and Michael. Both won gold medals in the 1976 Olympics and both went on to professional careers in which both of them became the heavyweight champion of the world. At that time, the title held much prestige in sports as well as boxing. How both of them got there and their careers and lives after achieving this feat are covered in this excellent book by John Florio.
Rising in the sport out of their poverty-stricken area of the Pruit-Igoe projects in St. Louis, both Leon and Michael achieved success in the sport, although Michael wanted to pursue a profession aside from boxing, as Florio describes well. This is especially true for both brother's stories when one considers Florio did not obtain interviews with either brother and instead talked to many contacts to the Spinks' as well as extensive research. The result of this is an interesting take on not only the brothers' boxing careers but also their lives before and after boxing.
The divergent paths are well-illustrated by Florio as after the Olympics, Leon wanted to turn pro right away while Michael was not as anxious to do so. Leon then pulled off one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, winning the heavyweight title over Muhammad Ali in only his eighth professional fight in February 15, 1978. His reign was very short as seven months later, Ali won back the title in the rematch. Both during and after his reign, Leon was drinking and partying excessively, leading him to some more destructive behavior and trying to schedule bouts with questionable opponents and promoters.
Michael's path, while
more deliberate and also including a light heavyweight title, also included a
win over a legendary champion, Larry Holmes.
While Michael had more sustained success during his reign, he also lost
the title in a famous bout when he lost to Mike Tyson in June 1988. Unlike Leon, that was the last fight for Michael,
retiring soon after that bout. While
Michael was more careful with his health and money, he too suffered after
boxing when he learned that his long-time advisor Butch Lewis had taken much of
However, both brothers seem to be upbeat now, despite the difficulties. This book was written before Leon's cancer diagnosis, so that part is not covered and at times, the author does seem a little harsh on Leon in his lack of responsibility to account for his issues when he was boxing. Nonetheless, this is a book that a boxing fan who knows about the Spinks brothers will want to pick up as it is a wonderful read on a pair of famous brothers of the "sweet science."
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